Is PT The Right Career For You?

physiotherapist physically examining a patient's foot and ankle joint

Written by Anthony Pinto Da Costa

Anthony graduated from Queen's University with a Master of Science in Physical Therapy in 2019. Clinically, Anthony works in both private and public practice where he treats a wide-range of individuals with orthopaedic, cardiorespiratory, and neurological conditions. Outside of practice, Anthony is passionate about helping prospective students receive successful admissions into physio school.

August 31, 2021

So, you’re thinking of pursuing a career in physiotherapy, eh?

We think that’s great! As physiotherapists ourselves, we take great pride in what we do and we’re always quick to endorse our awesome profession to anyone who’s interested. However… despite our excitement and passion for being physiotherapists, we understand that this field most certainly is not for everyone – and that’s a fact.

Like with any career, you always want to ensure that you’re asking yourself (and others) the right questions in order to gather as much information and data as possible. The more you know about a career field, the more confident you can be in yourself that you’re making an informed career decision.

A lot of time, effort, and dedication goes into the process of becoming a physiotherapist, so before you slam your foot on the gas, there are a number of questions we want you to ask yourself.

Here are 10 questions to ask yourself that will help you learn if physiotherapy is right for you.

1 – Are you willing to commit to years of post-secondary education?

If you want to become a physiotherapist, you have to endure a long educational journey – there’s no way around that. You first need to obtain a 4-year Bachelor’s (undergraduate) degree from a recognized university in any field of study. Upon finishing your Bachelor’s, you then have to complete a 2-year Master of Science in Physiotherapy degree at one of the physiotherapy programs in Canada. This process totals 6 years.

But wait, we’re not done yet. Finishing with your degrees is simply not enough to start practicing as a physiotherapist in Canada. After graduating from your physiotherapy program, you have to challenge and pass 2 separate national licensing exams, which are known as the Physiotherapy Competency Exams (PCE). The first exam (i.e., the written component) is a 4-hour multiple-choice test, and the second exam (i.e., the clinical component) is a 16-station practical skills evaluation. Studying, completing, and obtaining pass/fail results for these 2 exams can take 6+ months after graduation. Once you’ve passed both of them, you can finally practice as an independent registered physiotherapist in Canada.

All that said, the process of going from “I want to be a physiotherapist” to “I am a physiotherapist” takes about 6.5 years in total. After going through it ourselves, we understand that it can be a laborious journey. That being said, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you’re considering PT, make sure to ask yourself if you’re willing to commit to the academic journey.

2 – Are you passionate about anatomy and physiology?

Physiotherapists are healthcare professionals who are dedicated to improving quality of life and physical function of others by diagnosing, treating, and rehabilitating diseases and disorders associated with physical dysfunction, pain, and injury.

In order to be able to do everything we just mentioned, you need to know the body inside-out. Having an in-depth knowledge of the hundreds of muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, nerves, and vessels in the human body is a tall task. That being said, if cracking open an anatomy and/or physiology textbook makes you cringe inside, you may want to reconsider choosing physiotherapy as a career. If, on the other hand, learning and then being able to apply your knowledge of the intricacies of the human body to everyday life is something that excites you, you may be on the right path.

3 – Are you a “people person”?

Physiotherapists work in the business of people. I’ll say it again: Physiotherapists work in the business of people.

PTs pretty much talk with patients all day, and let me tell you, these interactions are not short, sweet, and to the point. You’re talking with patients for extended periods of time (30-60 minutes) in a 1-on-1 format about almost anything under the sun. Apart from discussing a patient’s progress through their plan of care, they’ll tell you about their kids, their work life, what they did on the weekend, their newly adopted puppy, their bathroom renovations, and much more. Although a lot of these details seem trivial, they’re very important for establishing a strong therapeutic relationship between the PT and the patient, which we know (through research) is one of the strongest predictors for a successful rehab outcome. With all that said, you have to be very comfortable with meeting new people and creating a positive connection with patients relatively quickly.

In addition to fostering strong connections with patients, PTs need to be able to work well with other healthcare providers. As an example, in the hospital setting, PTs work with doctors, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, pharmacists, nurses, physiotherapy assistants, and many others to collectively manage their patients. Therefore, being able to collaborate and work well with others to achieve a common goal are requisite skills and traits for a future physiotherapist.

If you love being around others, creating relationships, engaging in dialogue, and have a genuine interest in people, PT will provide you with an infinite amount of opportunities to do these things every day. 

4 – Are you an empathetic person?

Theodore Roosevelt put it perfectly when he said, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

In order to be a successful and effective physiotherapist, you must first be a genuinely empathetic person.

When people seek out a physiotherapist, they’re looking for an expert – that’s a given. However, in addition to finding an expert, they want someone who actually cares and can empathize with what they’re experiencing. You could be the most brilliant PT on the planet, but if you’re unable to convey any emotional intelligence to a patient during an interaction, it’s going to be very difficult for you to get them to trust you and buy-in to your plan of action.

If you deeply care about the physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing of those experiencing pain, injury, disease, or a debilitating condition affecting their mobility and function, you’re on the right track. That’s more than half the battle of becoming a great physiotherapist one day. 

5 – Are you a critical thinker?

Sound critical thinking skills is a must for a budding physiotherapist.

When people go to see a physiotherapist, it’s because they have a problem that they’re concerned about. The moment they sit on the therapy table in front of you, they expect you to be able to start solving that problem for them.

A typical physiotherapy initial assessment appointment is anywhere between 30 minutes to 1 hour. In that first session, you’re expected to physically examine the patient in order to be able to provide them with a diagnosis, cause, treatment plan, prognosis (i.e., how long it will take to heal), and reasonable goals that are individualized to that person. Oh, and remember, this person is a complete stranger that you just met not even an hour ago.

In order to do all of that effectively, you need to be able to employ critical thinking skills on your feet in a relatively short amount of time. Mind you, in PT school you’re trained on how to do all of these things, but in real life… people don’t always present to you in a way that’s exactly like the textbook. You have to be able to mend the skills you learned in school with your critical thinking skills in order to tailor your approach to each individual who comes to see you.

Therefore, if you’re someone who’s interested in problem solving for the purpose of helping others, physiotherapy certainly checks that box.

6 – Are you a lifelong learner?

Physiotherapy is an ever-changing profession. In order to keep up with the demands of evolving evidence and best practice guidelines for patient care, physiotherapists are required to commit to continuous learning and education throughout their career. In other words, to be an effective PT, one must be a lifelong learner.

So, yes, even after the 6+ year endeavour of becoming a physiotherapist, the learning does not stop. However, the learning that occurs in school versus in practice is much different. In school, you’re learning the basics of how to function as a physiotherapist, whereas in practice, you’re building on top of those basics for the purpose of advancing your skill set and effectiveness as a practitioner.

Regardless of that, if you’re considering PT as a career, you must go in with the expectation of consistently learning new concepts, principles, and methods for the purpose of better serving your patients. If PT is something you’re passionate about, this will be effortless; if it’s not, you’ll spiral into complacency and apathy.

7 – Do you have good organizational skills?

Whether it’s in private practice or in an acute care setting in a hospital, it’s customary for physiotherapists to get a lot done in small time windows.

On any given work day, a physiotherapist can see approximately 8-16 patients (sometimes more, sometimes less depending on setting and practice structure). In order for a physiotherapist’s day to run smoothly and efficiently, they must prioritize and organize their sessions. In addition to that, sometimes PTs have to coordinate with their assistants and other healthcare providers to devise plans on how to appropriately co-manage their patients.

Therefore, having the ability to dot all your I’s and cross all your T’s is coveted in the field of physiotherapy. Patients expect an organized and on-time therapist, and if you don’t fit that ideal, their trust in you will begin to waver.

That being said, if you’re an individual with strong organizational skills who finds satisfaction in management and creating a plan to help others, PT may be a good fit. 

8 – Do you have patience?

If you’re someone who’s looking for quick and immediate results, a career in physiotherapy may actually be frustrating for you.

Rehabbing a patient to achieve a desired result is always a process. Whether you’re helping someone rehab a kneecap fracture, a nagging tendon issue, chronic low back pain, or helping a spinal cord injury patient learn how to walk again – it’s going to take an extended period of time to do so.

As a physiotherapist, you have to be willing to guide and motivate people along their rehab journey. With that, you’re required to be adaptable when facing uncertainty. Things don’t always go as planned throughout a patient’s plan of care; there are ebbs and flows that you need to be able to address, which requires a great deal of patience.

Being able to balance your desire for a positive outcome and patience can be challenging, but it’s absolutely necessary for a long and fruitful career as a physiotherapist.

9 – Are you an active person?

It would only make sense that someone who wants to become a physiotherapist is, well… physically active.

Everything that physiotherapists do is predicated on providing advice and recommendations on movement, physical activity, and exercise in order to help people who are experiencing pain and dysfunction. Therefore, if you don’t enjoy being physically active yourself, it’s going to be very difficult for you to advise others on staying active and appropriately performing various therapeutic exercises.

Another thing you should know about the job is that you’re on your feet all day. PT is not a desk job; you’re up and moving! We can almost guarantee that you’ll hit your step count goal every day.

So, again, if being physically active for the vast majority of your work day jives with you, PT’s got you covered.

10 – What type of income are you hoping for?

And finally, the money question. I know we’ve all been conditioned to feel uncomfortable when discussing income potential (especially in healthcare), but it’s most definitely something you should have an understanding of before going full throttle on a future career.

So, what does a typical PT in Canada make per year?

According to Statistics Canada’s market report, the median wage of physiotherapists in Canada is about $40/hour. In a full-time (40-hour), 50-week work year, that works out to be about $80,000/year (gross income). The median wage will vary by province and region with the highest median hourly wage being found in Alberta at $44.68/hour (~$89,360/year) and the lowest median hourly wage being found in Nova Scotia at $34.87/hour (~$69,740/year).

Keep in mind, these are median values, so there are PTs in Canada who make considerably higher and considerably lower than these values. Typically, those in the lower ranges are PTs who are just beginning their careers. Conversely, the PTs in the higher ranges are usually more experienced in the field and/or own private clinics. Pursuing an entrepreneurial endeavour such as becoming a clinic owner can catapult you well into the $100,000s/year, depending on the success of your business.

All in all, the average PT in Canada makes enough to live a comfortable life. On top of that, with an unemployment rate sitting at 1.8% for PTs in Canada, you’ll never be scraping around to find work – there will always be opportunities for you.

Conclusion – Is PT The Right Career For You?

So, there you have it – 10 questions to ask yourself that will help you learn if physiotherapy is the right career for you.

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider before committing yourself to a career. In order to be confident that you’re making an informed career decision, it’s imperative to ask yourself all of the hard-hitting questions.

We hope this helped to provide you with some clarity.

Thanks for reading.

Looking for a proven system that will help you on your road to becoming a physiotherapist? Check out our PT Application Booster course today!

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